14 May 2010

Have You Seen This Child?

Rwanda Portraits

Despite Apple’s high-profile use of figures like Martin Luther King, Jr and Ghandi in their Think Different ad campaign, I find Apple’s profiles of pro users fairly conventional.

The profile of Seamus Conlan, however, is a bit more socially engaged:

In Rwanda in 1994 covering a notoriously lethal civil war, photojournalist Seamus Conlan found himself suddenly and unexpectedly reassigned, not by a magazine or newspaper editor, but by his conscience. “I was working in Rwanda as a freelance photographer doing documentation on the lost children, a very big problem and a huge story,” says Conlan. “As I was riding in the back of a truck, photographing the orphans and collecting them at the same time, I decided to take a photo of every child as a means of tracing them.”

Conlan dropped out of photojournalism to complete his self-assigned new mission, photographing 21,000 orphans over a period of a year and a half. But because the children were known by ambiguous names such as Child of Hope or No Man Should Dishonor Me — “There were no John Smiths” — Conlan completed his tracing solution by posting the photographs on billboards sorted by place of origin. “If a child came from Kigali, the parents would go to that billboard, point to the child, give the ID number to the Red Cross and take that child home.”

Conlan’s photographic tracking method is now used by all major relief agencies.

See this 2006 piece on CNN, Camera reunites Rwandan children, families, and Seamus’s own site.